For the past four years I have been a Medical Staff Volunteer for Yosemite Ridge Camps. I have had the pleasure of working at all the youth camps and some of the Family Camps. All these programs offer a wonderful experience for children with life altering illnesses and their families. The beauty of Yosemite National Park provides an exceptional venue for all the camps. Here the children learn that they can lead a full and rewarding life even with their medical challenges. They can enjoy all the fun of camp activities in a safe and supportive environment. They also have an opportunity to learn about their illness and how to improve their management through classes provided by specialist as well as share their experiences with peers who have the same challenges. These camps also provide a chance for the medical staff volunteers to leave their offices and hospitals, and see these children live outside of a clinical setting. To see that severe asthmatic climb up to the top of Vernal Falls, or a chid with seizures enjoy swimming with friends after he conquered climbing the rock wall. The smiles, the laughter, the joyous shouting of success or just plain fun are priceless.
I learned about Yosemite Ridge while I was doing research on childhood asthma among Mexican-Americans in the San Joaquin Valley. The camp afforded me the opportunity to spend time with families and professionals who were dealing with childhood asthma, and especially those who were having difficulty controlling it. Many of the families had no knowledge about asthma before attending camp. They quickly learned about the causes and treatment of asthma. Maybe even more importantly they had FUN! So many children are overprotected when they have asthma. These children learned to swim, hike, ride a horse--even rock climb. And they love it!